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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1835 ; by 


In the Clerk's Office of District Court of Massachusetts. 


• It is not to be expected that, debarred as I am, from the 
usual advantages of my fellow men, having no access to books, 
having no eye for the thousand ways and means by which other 
men obtain information and communicate it to others, that I 
should be able to communicate my thoughts in the very best 
manner, or clothe them in the elegance of style. Let him 
therefore, who is disposed to find fault with the simplicity of 
my ideas, or the roughness of my expressions, reflect, that they 
come from one to whom the grand avenue of intelligence is 
closed. Nevertheless, I flatter myself that what I have to say 
will not be wholly useless or unentertaining. I have observed, 
that men generally take an interest in matters relating to the 
blind, or others deprived of the ordinary means of communi- 
cating with their fellows. Whose name is better known to the 
scientific world, than that of Sanderson, the blind professor of 
mathematics. Who has obtained a greater degree of notoriety 
than the deaf, dumb and blind girl, Julia Brace. Such noto- 
riety, I am willing to admit, is not at all enviable ; but, never- 
theless, the study of the means whereby persons so deprived 
gain knowledge, cannot be indifferent to any one who^ wishes 
to know and understand his own mind. It is not without its 
practical utility. The faculties are notoriously improved by 
exercise. Take a man who can see distinctly, and blindfold 
him, and he is almost perfectly helpless. He stumbles upon 
snares and into pits, he runs against obstacles. I do no such 
things. I can estimate distances, distinguish persons and de- 
monstrate a perception of many matters, which, I have found 
is astonishing to those who are more favored by Heaven than I 


am. All this comes of the education of the ear, which, I think, 
is worth educating. If I communicate to others the means by 
which they may improve that sense, will it be said that my 
book, my life, or my example is in vain ? Shall I not at least 
put a staff into their hands, by which their darkling path may 
be guided. Suppose a seeing person should undertake to walk 
over the late Gardiner Green's estate in a dark night, would he 
not inevitably break his neck ? I could do it, without fear or 
danger. When a man loses an arm, the other is increased in 
proportion, and has the strength of two. The one eye of the 
one-eyed man has an augmented power of vision. I do declare 
that if it could so be that my sight could be restored at the ex- 
pense of my hearing, I would not accept the offer. 

People have sometimes deemed me an impostor, and have 
consequently treated me rudely, on account of the degree of 
perfection to which my ear has been cultivated. I forgive 
them, and wish any one who doubts the reality of my blind- 
ness, may try it by any test that does not involve bodily injury. 
Others have rebuked me for using my humble means of gaining 
an honest livelihood, saying that the public have made provis- 
ion for the support of those who are made more or less helpless 
by the visitation of God. They seem to forget, or not to reflect, 
that the extinction of one faculty does not injure the others. 
If you prick a blind man, does he not bleed? — if you tickle 
him, does he not laugh? — if you treat him with contumely, 
does he not feel mortification and bitterness of heart ? Shall 
he not also have an honest pride ? If we were to see Mr. 
Daniel Webster, (to suppose an extreme case,) pedling pins 
and tape, we should despise him, not because that employment 
is dishonest or dishonorable, but because he did not improve 
the high abilities wherewith God has gifted him worthily — not 
because he did not do well, but because he did not do better. 
People are despised for being lazy, intemperate, unwilling to 
exert themselves, and willing to be a burthen to their friends ; 
but I never heard a man who had lost a leg reproached because 
he could not run as fast as his neighbors. The loss of a limb 
does not absolve us from the obligation to use those which 


remain. The pension laws of the United States seem to coun- 
tenance this doctrine. They require that the soldier who 
applies for a pension should produce a certificate from his regi- 
mental surgeon, stating the amount of the injury he has re- 
ceived, whether he is one fourth, one half, or totally disabled ; 
clearly meaning that he is to do the best he can to support 
himself. Then, though I cannot shake the hall of Fanueil 
with the thunders of eloquence ; though 1 cannot wield the axe 
or ply the oar, is it not more honorable in me to exert such 
faculties as I retain to procure a subsistence, than to lie a dead 
weight on the hands of my friends ? 

To have done with this long preamble, I will proceed to 
relate the few principal events of my brief existence. I am 
now twenty-six years of age, am six feet in heighth, and in 
bodily power am not inferior to my fellows. I was born in 
Albany, and am the child of respectable parents, in the middle 
walks of life. My father was bred to the seas and was the 
master of a vessel. He was an American born, and so was my 
mother. I am pure Yankee, as far as I can trace my ancestry. 
I was not born blind ; but had the use of my eyes for several 
years, in as much perfection as any boy. 

At five years of age, I lost the sight of one eye, in conse- 
quence of an inflammation, which was brought about by a violent 
cold. I lost the sight of the other eye by violent means. It 
was put out while I was an apprentice, by a chip that flew from 
a log as I was splitting wood. In the first case, my illness was 
long and painful. Every thing was done for me that the skill 
of the faculty and the tender kindness of my parents could sug- 
gest, but the vision of that eye perished. I was not, however, 
aware of it till a year and a half afterwards. I seemed to see 
as well as before, and as the appearance of the optic was very 
little changed, no one noticed the defect for a long time. My 
mother was the first to perceive that anything was the matter, 
and it was then that I became acquainted with my misfortune. 
However, I felt no inconvenience from it, as far as I can recol- 
lect, until I lost the other eye. 

When I was young, my parents left Albany, and removed 


to Utica, which was then a small, ,wild place. They were 
affectionately attached to me, and gave me all the advantages 
their means would allow. They put me to school to a Mrs. 
Ripley, who was a good, kind and skilful preceptor. Indeed, 

1 have always been singularly fortunate in my connections 
with those who have in any way had the control of my actions 
or instruction. Under Mrs. Ripley I acquired the first rudi- 
ments of a common English education. I am indebted to her 
for my A, B,C, and my ab, abs. Her pupils all liked her. I 
believe, from what I can remember of my boyish days, that I 
was a mischievous child, considerably given to practical jokes, 
though I cannot tax myself with ever having been vicious or 
malignant. I was good-natured then, and 1 believe I am so 
still. I can only recollect one instance in which I gave Mrs. 
Ripley serious pain. She set me a task which I easily com- 
mitted to memory, as I always did. Indeed, I was rather 
remarkable for quickness of apprehension and tenacity of me- 
mory. Seeing that 1 would have a long time to be idle in, she 
would have retained me longer, while I insisted that I had 
fulfilled my part of the terms of the bargain, and would have 
gone home. She undertook to chastise me, and a trial of 
strength and patience ensued, which ended in the subjugation 
of my choler, and I asked her forgiveness. Another of my 
frolics was, rolling a heavy log down hill against the wall of a 
factory, w T hich I bountifully beplastered with mud, but in this 
case I escaped detection and punishment. 

I do not remember that I was ever quarrelsome, excepting 
on one occasion. On the contrary, I was of a gentle, perhaps 
a timid spirit. At the time of which I speak, my wrath was 
excited by a feeling of humanity. I was driving home a cow, 
and certain boys took the liberty to lapidate her. I stood 
up in defence of my cow, and returned their missiles, with in- 

I can remember, too, the robbing of several orchards, for 
which I take to myself shame. I did not do it from any desire 
to appropriate the goods of others ; but from an inherent love 
of fun and frolic. On one of these occasions I was detected 


in the fact by the owner, who pursued me. Finding that he 
was swifter of foot than I, I threw myself on all fours before 
him, and suffered him to stumble over me, and so escaped. I 
have retained a distinct recollection of this trick, because I 
have heard a similar one related of Stephen Burroughs, the 
notorious counterfeiter, and because I have been frequently 
reminded of it since I have been blind by unthinking persons, 
who have treated me in precisely the same manner. They did 
not, however, give me the same fair chance I gave him ; for 
he cculd at least see what was in his way. 

It was my father's custom to take his boys to sea with him, 
at least one voyage ; probably to see if they had any vocation to 
a maritime life. Accordingly, when I was nine years old, he 
took me to Port au Prince, in St. Domingo, with him, in a 
small brig, of which he was master. My recollections of the 
place are distinct enough ; but it cannot be expected that the 
observations of a child of my age can be of much importance. 
The city w T as built on the side and in the hollow of a hill, 
sloping down from the mountains, and then appeared to con- 
tain about twelve thousand inhabitants. The winds sometimes 
rushed down from the mountains in the back ground, with tre- 
mendous fury. The houses were of stone ; most of them of 
one or two stories high, though there were several ware houses 
and other buildings of greater magnitude. I staid in the port 
six weeks, during which, I, my father, and the rest of the ves- 
sel's company were treated with the utmost kindness and 
civility by the newly emancipated inhabitants. They seemed 
to take an especial liking to me, probably because I was a boy; 
for, unless I am much mistaken, all the African race are re- 
markably fond of children. Indeed, I have ever observed, that 
persons of that color, if not so refined, are more polite, more 
attentive, and more affectionate than the white race. I never 
met with insult or offence from any of them. They may 
be ignorant, gross, and vulgar, but I never saw a negro who 
had a deliberately bad heart. 

These people often invited us into their houses, and treated 
us with all the hospitality in their power. They were indolent. 


yet did not want for any of the necessaries of life, and appeared 
very happy. They were a good, honest people, were just in 
their dealings, and true to their promises. There are some 
people who connect the idea of happiness and good character 
with a great amount of labor, but to judge from this specimen, 
there is no necessary connection. They were lazy and poor, 
yet they were good and contented. Their great enjoyment 
seemed to be to lie down and bask in the sun. They were 
very proud of having achieved their independence, hated the 
French and Dutch, and disliked my own countrymen on ac- 
count of holding slaves. They were very jealous of any ap- 
pearance of slight or contempt. As an instance of this, on 
entering the custom house my father omitted to take off his 
hat, and was promptly admonished of his neglect by a black 
officer. Their language, generally speaking, was a jargon, a 
mixture of bad French, Spanish, African, and, here and there, 
a little English. I thought the climate unhealthy. The 
weather was very hot and unwholesome, fogs prevailed in the 
morning. The streets were straight and regular. The side 
walks were bad. I do not think the people were, generally, 
so well looking as colored people are in this country. Their 
dress was pretty much the same. The great majority of them 
were coal black, but there were many mulattoes and some white 
men, but few white women. Their government and habits 
appeared to be entirely military. Every man was liable to be 
called on to do duty as a soldier. The black troops were 
quick in their motions, and expert in handling their weapons. 
I saw them drilled often. I cannot say so much of their artil- 
lery. A frigate came in while we were lying in port and fired 
a salute, which the negro artillerists returned ; but very awk- 
wardly. One of them was blown from the muzzle of the gun 
down the hill, and killed on the spot ; another lost his arms? 
and died the next day. This accident created a great excite- 
ment; for these people seemed to have a great regard for 
human life. The men were buried with the honors of war. 
The guards at all the military posts were mounted and relieved 
with as much regularity as could be done by any people. The 


whole people seemed to be in a state of .alarm, and in constant 
dread of invasion. The standing order was, that, if they should 
be overpowered by any hostile, invading force, men, women, 
and children should abandon the settlements and fly to the 
mountains. Perhaps this state of excitation was the cause of 
their indolence as well as their military habits ; for they showed 
no want of alacrity in the discharge of their duties as soldiers. 
Indeed, it would be unreasonable to expect them to work hard, 
and build houses and cultivate fields, which might have been 
burned and ravaged, or used, to say the least, by their enemies 
at any time. I leave this, however, to wiser heads than mine. 
There was a castle, that appeared to me a very strong place, 
on the hill, that overlooked the city. I went up to it once, 
and saw huge rocks, placed on pivots, in readiness to be hurled 
against storming parties, if any such should appear. 

Another singularity that I observed, was the extreme fond- 
ness of the women for silk dresses and jewelry. They seemed, 
also, to be fond of the company of white persons ; and those 
who had a mixture of white blood were proud of it. 

The prevailing religion of the country was the Catholic ; 
and there was no lack of churches, which were generally poor 
and mean. Crosses stood everywhere by the way side, which 
was the first I ever saw of such a practice. I saw the inhabitants 
kneeling before them. One would think that wharves were 
necessary to a commercial city, but there were none. We lay 
at anchor in the bay, and our unlading and lading w T as performed 
by means of scows and boats. There was no shipping in the 
harbor belonging to the government, and but very little belong- 
ing to private persons. The few vessels I saw were small, and 
of little value. The revolution had annihilated the commerce 
of the island. The principal dealings of the place were in arti- 
cles of produce and food ; and there were great numbers of 
provision shops. There were also shops where English goods 
were sold. The staple article of traffic was coffee. They 
had no great facility in making bargains ; but if they were 
hard to deal with, they evinced no disposition to cheat us. 

I cannot tax my memory with any farther particulars re- 
- 2 


specting this interesting people. And when it is considered, 
that I was then so young, and that seventeen years have elaps- 
ed since that time, it will perhaps be thought strange that I 
should remember so much. Those things are still distinct to 
my mind's eye, though to my corporal vision they are lost 
forever. It was in February that I bade farewell to Port au 

Our vessel carried out horses, pork, and flour. My father 
made a very profitable voyage of it, and so, indeed, did I ; for 
I was entrusted with a little adventure, consisting of a coop of 
barn-door fowls and other small matters, on which I speculated 
not unskillfully. For one game cock I received two guineas. I 
might have done still better ; for the President, Petion, would 
fain have adopted me, promising to do his best to promote my 
welfare, but my father would by no means consent. He acted 
for the best, certainly, but it happened to turn out for the worst. 
Had I remained in Hayti, I should probably not have lost my 
sight. I also made a profit on a very handsome parrot that 
I bought on the island, and sold in New York for five dollars. 

We were fourteen days on our passage out from New York, 
and had a very pleasant time. We were not so fortunate on 
our return. A violent storm arose in the Gulf Stream, from 
which we were driven back three times, before we could cross 
it. We laid to, two days, under close reefed canvass, after we 
entered the stream, and here we lost one of the crew by yel- 
low fever, an ordinary seaman named Henry Wilkins. We 
also lost our main yard and boom. The whole passage back 
occupied twenty-seven days. I observed that the water in the 
Gulf Stream was greener and warmer than in other parts of the 
Atlantic, and could, moreover, be distinguished by great quan- 
tities of grass floating in it. Great flocks of stormy petrils 
hovered over it, which sailors call Mother Carey's chickens, 
and we saw flying fishes in abundance. Some of them, be- 
ing pursued by a dolphin, came on board, and dropped on deck. 
We ate them. They are about the size of a herring, and are 
not unpalatable food. We also had turtles to eat, which we 
bought at St. Domingo. To add to the variety of our fare, one 



of the hands, an Irishman, succeeded in enticing a shark to put 
his foolish head within the compass of a running bowline, by 
which he was hoisted on deck. He was eleven feet long. 

I was much liked by the mariners at this time, on account of 
my agility, being always climbing about the rigging, an ability 
that has never left me to this day. I can explore the rigging 
of a vessel as well as any person who can see. Perhaps it is 
because, seeing no danger, I fear none. I was also excellent 
friends with the dog, and was amused at witnessing his sagacity. 
He had formed a strong attachment to a pig we had on board, 
and would carry him a portion of his , food, before he would 
taste it himself. These incidents may appear of small conse- 
quence, but when it is considered that they are among the 
most prominent that enliven the memory of a blind man, I 
trust I shall be excused for dwelling on them. 

After this voyage, my father returned to Albany, where he 
put me to school with a Mr. Hayes, whom I shall always 
gratefully remember. I was at this time nine years of age, 
and I remained with Mr. Hayes until I was eleven. During 
my stay at his school, my studies were reading, writing, arith- 
metic, geography and grammar. I made myself master of all 
but grammar, and in that I never could initiate myself. I gained 
several medals by my industry. Our master was liked by all 
the pupils, and was a good, kind, and intelligent man. 

When I left school, I was taken back to Utica, and put at 
the school of a Mr. Dakin, who was a much more severe man 
than Mr. Hayes. My tasks here were heavier than at the 
former school, but I remained with Mr. Dakin till I was 
thirteen years old. At this school I found the same difficulty 
in learning grammar, — it is a thing into which I never could 
see ; — but in all my other studies I did well. 

From Mr. Dakin's, I was removed to an academy at Onan- 
daga, under the care of Rev. Mr. Alexander. I rung the bell 
for my education and board. My mischievous fellow pupils 
used - often to cut the bell rope, so that they needed not be 
disturbed in their morning slumbers by its hateful summons. 
Sometimes, for the same purpose, they would pull the rope up 


into the belfry, so that I could not get at it ; and several times 
in the winter season — after my unsuccessful attempts to move 
the noisy creature — I discovered, that in the preceding night it 
had been slyly turned up and filled with water — which had 
congealed into a solid body of ice. But rogues seldom escape 
punishment ; and though they elude detection for a time, 
their very success hurries them beyond discretion, and their 
boldness completes their destruction. The ringleader of all the 
school mischief was an instance of this. Early one morning, 
the first of April, (a famous clay for jokes,) he put a flat stone 
on the roof of the academy, upon which, with wood, he kindled 
a bright flame, and then shouted fire ! fire ! most lustily. When 
the people had collected at the unwonted cry, he popped up, 
pushed the burning mass from the roof upon their heads, crying 
out, " Ye April fools !" This finished his career. He was 
detected and expelled. 

After six months, becoming discontented at this place, I was 
bound, by my father, as an apprentice to the printing business, 
to Mr. W. Williams in Utica. I applied myself diligently to 
this business — in due time was employed at the case and the 
press, and was making myself master of the trade. I had been 
in this employment about two years, and was but somewhat 
past my sixteenth year, when I was suddenly stopped in my 
progress by the accident which deprived me of the use of my 
remaining eye, and left me totally blind. No one who still 
enjoys entire the inestimable gift of perfect vision, can compre- 
hend how much of sadness and gloom are shrouded in the 
single expression of total blindness. Let me here pause for a 
moment, and beseech my race not to let the very commonness 
of the blessings they enjoy deaden, while it should increase 
their gratitude, — and, while, from experience, they can exclaim, 
" blessed is the light of the sun," let them not cease to praise 
him who gives and preserves the power of sight. 

It may be easily supposed, that the accident which brought 
upon me this sad calamity, can, in none of its circumstances, 
ever be effaced from my mind. As I have stated, I had in 
very early life, lost the use of one of my eyes, but this had be- 


come of comparatively little importance, as I was still able to 
attend to all the affairs of life. I had become entirely reconciled 
to it ; but I little thought to what further trial I was to be called. 
It was on a morning in November, in the year 1825, while I 
was in the employment of Mr. Williams, that I was splitting 
some wood to kindle a fire in the printing office. In under- 
taking to break a stick in two crosswise, a part of it flew with 
great violence and struck me in my remaining eye. The blow 
was a severe one, and was attended with great pain. It was 
accompanied with the usual swelling, but I did not dream of 
the consequences that were to follow, nor did my physician. 
He followed the usual course to cure a severe contusion ; but 
I found my eye-sight gradually failing, while the external ap- 
pearances of it were diminishing, — until, in about three months 
from the period of the accident, I lost it entirely. No medical 
aid was of the least avail ; and thus, before I was seventeen, in 
the midst of my apprenticeship, I was left in all the darkness 
and helplessness of a blind boy. 

What was now to be done ? I was of little or no use to Mr. 
Williams, and, indeed, I felt myself of no use to any one, not 
even to myself. Under such circumstances, man will forgive 
despondency, and it seems as if Heaven also would. But there 
is an end to all things, and even the blind, beside the duty of 
resignation, may find a sphere of usefulness. As soon as my 
case became hopeless, I was sent for by my parents, who had 
now removed to Syracuse, which was then but a very small 
place, and there I joined them. I was received by my parents 
with all the commiseration, and treated by them with all the 
tender kindness, which my forlorn condition so naturally awak- 
ened. But it was a long time before I could reconcile myself 
to my situation — all about me seemed gloomy and sad. I was 
nervous and restless, — and was like one struggling for some- 
thing beyond his reach. And my feelings were not assuaged 
by the many ill-judging persons who visited me from curiosity, 
and who expressed their sympathy, by dwelling on my great 
loss, and telling me they should think I had rather die than 
live. I continued in this unhappy and desponding condition 


for six months. I lost my flesh and strength ; so that I kept a 
great part of the time upon my hed. I found in my mother a 
most invaluable adviser and friend. She was continually striving 
to cheer my spirits, by reading to me, especially about the blind, 
how much in some cases they had done, — she told me of Mil- 
ton, and, above all, she constantly directed me to look upon all 
as for the best. I cannot better express the sentiments which 
she inculcated, than in the words which the Rev. Thomas 
Blacklock, himself totally blind from early infancy, addressed 
to his mother. 

" What tho' thy son, dependent, weak, and blind, 
Deplore his wishes check'd, his hopes confined ? 
Tho' want, impending, cloud each cheerless day, 
And death with life seem struggling for their prey ? 
Let this console, if not reward, thy pain ; 
Unhappy he may live, but not in vain." 

Under this influence from my mother, I determined to give 
up these feelings of despair. Time assuages all griefs, and 
mitigates the severity of all calamities. But much as I owe to 
time, I cannot think upon my -restoration to contentment, with- 
out paying the tribute of heartfelt gratitude to my beloved, but 
now departed, mother. I resolved to make an effort to culti- 
vate my other senses of touch, taste, hearing and smell, — and 
it is wonderful, with what rapidity the powers of these senses 
increased. No one can comprehend what powers lie dormant 
within him, until stern necessity is upon him. I gradually 
learned to distinguish persons by their voice and steps — to meas- 
ure distances by sound, with great facility — and at length I 
moved about the house with ease, and even made my way 
through the town of Syracuse, without much difficulty. 

The situation of my parents became much reduced, and I 
determined to do something for my own support. I learned to 
distinguish the various pieces of money by the touch — and then 
purchasing various articles of merchandize and pamphlets, and 
taking a boy for my guide, I travelled about through the wes- 
tern part of New York selling them. I met with good success, 
always finding persons willing to aid me, out of pity for my 
condition. In travelling about, I heard of many blind persons, 



whom I went to see, and the forlornness of the condition of 
many of them, helped to make me resigned to mine. I found 
many who had been born blind, and who having never been in 
any way instructed, were utterly helpless. They could not 
believe, when I told them, how many miles I had travelled, 
and what powers I had of knowing things. If there is any one 
who doubts the value and utility of the efforts now making, 
here and elsewhere, in behalf of these unfortunate persons, I 
wish he could only meet with some of those uncared-for indi- 
viduals whom I encountered, and compare their condition with 
that of the educated blind. There is almost as much difference 
between them, as between that of those who see and those who 
cannot. But all I met were not of this description. I found 
some who were wonderfully skillful in various things, espe- 
cially in music. I remember particularly a Mr. Ross, in Ro- 
chester, who was an excellent performer upon the violin. 
Though utterly blind, he had become perfectly familiar with 
the place, and, at his offer, I took his arm, and he conducted me 
all over it, telling me about the various parts, and the buildings. 
He carried me through the Eagle Tavern, pointing out all the 
rooms ; — through the Munroe Garden, distinguishing the vari- 
ous beds of flowers, — and we walked together over the aque- 
duct of the canal, where there was no railing, — he sportingly 
telling me, occasionally, to look down and see what a dangerous 
place was beneath us. We returned from our ramble in perfect 
safety, thereby illustrating, that though true in a moral, yet it 
is not in a literal sense, that " if the blind lead the blind, both . 
shall fall into the ditch." 

At the town of Lysander, I met with another blind man, 
who was a most excellent cabinet maker. I could not believe 
it possible, having never heard of such a thing as a blind me- 
chanic, till I went into his shop, and felt of the work, and even 
then, I could not believe that he was blind, until, at his desire, 
I put my finger upon the orbits of his eyes, and found but an 
empty space. 

I found many people, who were utterly ignorant of the ca- 
pabilities of the blind, who thought that they could not know 


day from night — could not dress themselves, and feed them- 
selves — or do any thing — in short, that they must be perfect 
idiots. They earned this so far, that when they saw I could 
do something, and could take care of myself, they insulted me, 
and called me an impostor. But I only pitied their ignorance, 
and told them I thought it quite hard enough to be blind, with- 
out being also exposed to persecution for it. 

After this tour I returned again to Syracuse. Emboldened 
too much by my success in rambling, I thought I could go 
round Syracuse with perfect ease, from my knowledge of it 
before I left. But I forgot what changes the spirit of improve- 
ment so rapidly makes in all places in this country ; even in a 
few months. An old cistern had been opened in the town, 
and in one of my attempts at walking, I very suddenly found 
myself at the bottom of it, while a large stone upon its side, 
which had accompanied me in my unpleasant and quite unsafe 
expedition, fell upon my foot and injured, me severely. I was 
laid up at home three months. While confined with this lame- 
ness, I was visited by more of those very kind persons who, 
by way of sympathy, magnified my calamities, and found in my 
accident of tumbling into the cistern, fresh proof that I never could 
entirely overcome my difficulties. I remember one of them had 
been talking in this strain — wondering how I was to find my way 
through the world, and thinking I must despair — when I told 
him that for answer I would have him read a few lines from 
my good old friend, the blind Doctor Blacklock, — and I caused 
the following to be pointed out to him : — 

" You ask, by what means I my livelihood gain, 
And how my long conflict with fortune maintain ? 
The question is kind, yet I cannot tell why, 
'Tis hard for a spirit like mine to reply. 
If a friend with a friend must be free and sincere, 
My vesture is simple and sober my cheer : 
But tho' few my resources, and vacant my purse, 
One comfort is left me — things cannot be worse. 
'T is vain to repine, as philosophers say, 
So I take what is offered, and live as I may ; 
To my wants, still returning, adapt my supplies, 
And find in my hope what my fortune denies." 

While I was confined at home, I had an entirely unexpected 
visit from my friend Ross, of Rochester, who had been my 


guide through that place. I was so rejoiced at seeing him, 
that had it not been for my lameness, I should have returned 
the compliment, and conducted him through Syracuse ; but 
perhaps it was as well for his neck, that I could not attempt it. 
The first announcement he made to me was, that since we 
parted he had married a wife, — and, says he, " I am happy 
enough, for she is the handsomest woman I ever saw, and I 
advise you, as soon as you can, to get one, too." 

After my recovery, I started upon another traveling expe- 
dition, toward the southern part of New York. I felt, as be- 
fore, great interest in all blind persons, and always inquired for 
them, and if I heard of any, visited them. I met with one 
blind man, who was the owner of a large farm — upon which he 
worked himself, hoeing ,corn, &c. He told me he got along 
without difficulty, and. indeed, that he could ride all about the 
town, some six or eight miles, with ease. I never had been on 
horseback since I was blind, though I was a good horseman 
before. But he made me get on a horse, and we, both on 
horseback, rode into town, a distance of three miles, without 
any trouble. We were hooted at by many of his friends, who 
had seen me the day before and knew me; and two blind 
men riding together on horseback, and known to be such, 
were certainly not a sight to be seen every day, and not a little 
amused them. The name of this man was Hooker. He was 
married, and the father of seven children. During my stay I 
visited many parts of his farm, in his company, and though it 
may seem strange, it is not the less true that he could do much 
manual labor on his own ground, such as hoeing, &c. His 
wife was a very amiable, excellent woman, and treated me 
with all possible kindness. Indeed, I never knew the wife of 
a blind man, chosen after the loss of his vision, who was not of 
this character. Depending more upon the kindness of a com- 
panion than others, they are more careful in their choice, and 
are often better judges from the voice, than persons who have 
more extensive sources of information. 

I went through New York and the western part of Pennsyl- 
vania, selling my small stock as I best could, and meeting with 


much trouble and persecution. Some people thought me an 
impostor, and were therefore disposed to treat me with harsh- 
ness and insult. The course a certain Mr. Ruggles took toward 
me, was so peculiarly unmanly, that I think his behavior ought 
to be held up as an example to others in like sort offending. 
Though I proffered him ready money for his accommodations, 
he treated me as the basest impostor, and bade me, if I was in 
reality blind, to begone to the pauper asylum. This insult 
stung me to the quick, and I travelled three miles on foot after 
dark, with my pack, rather than remain in his house. This 
happened in Washington county. Otherwise I had not much 
reason to complain. I had good sales for my goods. 

Hence 1 travelled to Pittsburg, where the people were kind 
to me ; but such a smoky den as they dwell in, I never smelled. 
I thought the very women must have been blackened by the 
atmosphere. It was the essential oil of coal gas. Thence I 
crossed the country to Cincinnati, but did not find the journey 
very profitable, till I arrived in the city ; where I speculated to 
good advantage in books. The spirit of this place is that of 
enterprise, and there are still many swine there, though Mrs. 
Troliope is gone. Thence I proceeded to Cleaveland, on Lake 
Erie. On the road thither I lost my way, for the first time, 
and encamped with my boy in the woods. We were much 
tormented with the polite attentions of those little insects who 
constantly cry " cousin" in your ears, till you are tempted to 
break the commandment and curse their claims to relationship. 
The wolves, too, made melody in their throats peculiarly 
pleasing to a helpless man. 

Hence we sailed to Buffalo, in the schooner Lady Robin, 
where I did not do very well, but made an addition to my 
stock of goods for a more eastern market. There I found a 
blind musician, who proved a very good guide, and shewed me 
many fine things. Hence I pushed on to Batavia, where Mor- 
gan wrote a foolish book, and got his neck twisted for his 
pains. Then on to Rochester, and paid a second visit to my 
blind friend, and was assured by him again, that his wife was 
the prettiest woman he ever saw. 


He and I walked about the place as usual, and in the even- 
ing we went to the theatre together, and the audience good 
naturedly cried out to us, desiring to know what two blind men 
could expect to see in such a place. We took their raillery 
in good part, as it was meant. From the theatre we retired 
to his house, where I took my lodging, as I always did ; 
well knowing I was perfectly welcome. Next day we visited 
the Monroe garden and botanized together, he teaching me the 
names and qualities of plants with which I was, as yet,* not so 
well acquainted. .That night we went to a ball, where we en- 
joyed ourselves highly, and he acquitted himself handsomely, 
and to the satisfaction of the company, and to his own, as a 

Having thus enjoyed his hospitality, on the next day I again 
started eastward, with my boy, on a peddling excursion. I 
did not do so well in Rochester as before, and, indeed, I have 
always found, wherever I travelled, that the novelty presented 
in the person of a blind man, acting for, and taking care of 
himself, would attract more custom at first than after the edge 
of curiosity was worn off. On the same principle, people 
gave more to see a boy cut portraits and shoot arrows with his 
feet, than they would have done to relieve his necessity, though 
never so urgent. Charity is, at best, but a cold feeling. I 
proceeded to Canandagua, where my singular appearance was 
less stimulating to curiosity, and fared better there. It is a 
beautiful place, situated on the shore of a charming lake ; that 
is, if I may be allowed to be in any degree a judge. 

My next stage was to Geneva, of which 1 can say, that it is 
built on the side of a hill, on a lake shore, and seemed a stir- 
ring place. There, for the first time, I was aware of a man 
in my own unfortunate condition, engaged in sawing and split- 
ting wood, which he performed with great dexterity. Finally, 
I reached Auburn, the terror of all the thieves and rogues in 
Gotham State, and visited the state prison, in a manner entirely 
voluntary. There, to my sorrow and mortification, I found a 
blind man incarcerated for a term of fourteen years, for a very 
scandalous and infamous crime. It seems that even the abso- 


lute necessity of cultivating good-will, cannot always restrain 
our evil passions. 

Having fulfilled all reasonable expectations in this little tour, 
I returned to Syracuse, where the first severe blow that had 
fallen on me since my blindness had been struck. My father 
was dead — of apoplexy. I was much afflicted, for he had ever 
been a good and kind parent, and I sustained great loss, indeed, 
in him. But divine wisdom has so ordered it that sorrow for 
any irreparable misfortune cannot last very long. 

As I always took more notice of whatever happened in con- 
nection with the blind than with other men, I must not omit to 
mention, and I may as well do it here as anywhere, that in Clin- 
ton, Oneida county, I became acquainted with a blind Indian, 
who was much of a gentleman, and was considered an admirable 
performer on the flute, clarionet, and other instruments. I 
liked the Indians generally. They were a good, kind people, 
and took much notice of me, especially after I became blind. 
What I particularly liked in them was, their attachment to the 
truth. Young as I was, I was much struck with some things I 
saw among them. One of them was the sacrifice of a white 
dog, which they perform annually, in a most cruel and savage 
manner, by tying the animal fast, and then consuming it alive in a 
fire, without any regard to its sufferings. The spectacle filled 
me with disgust and horror, and as it is done from some motive 
connected with their superstitions, I suppose is not to be taken 
as a token of their general character. I believe the God of na- 
ture never made such abominable inhumanity a leading trait in 
the character of any man, much less in that of a whole people. 
Their war dance was also an amusing sight, though I could 
not understand it. The Onondagas had a castle built of stone 
on their lands, hallowed by their traditions and superstitions. 
I have been over it since I became blind, and could perceive 
that it was a work of considerable strength and extent. 

Men, and women too, were generally kind to me — very kind. 
I was never insulted by any grown person, unless under the 
supposition that I was an impostor ; for the external appearance 
of my sightless orbs does not at once convey the melancholy 


truth. Children would sometimes take advantage of my de- 
fect, to place stumbling blocks in my path. One man only 
has abused me, and he was not himself at the time. He would 
have smoked in my face, to irritate me ; but I have- made 
it a rule not to return injury with injury. It was at Syracuse. 
Not succeeding in his unmanly attempt, he thrust me into the 
canal, but I easily got cut again. An officer, who was present, 
instantly took him into custody. A great excitement took 
place — he was tried for the assault, convicted, and imprisoned 
thirty days ; for which I was sorry, and would have begged 
him off, if I could. He was sincerely penitent, and asked my 
forgiveness. The judge would not listen to me or him. He 
was particularly good to me ever after. 

As I was walking one day in Syracuse, I happened to stop 
opposite the church, and overheard several persons talking 
about the possibility of ascending the spire by means of the 
lightning rod. One of them remarked, that he did not think a 
sailor could do it. I observed that I could, at which all laugh- 
ed. I proceeded to try the experiment, and actually mounted 
and descended upwards of seventy-five feet, as can be proved 
by the testimony of fifty reputable persons. I do not think 
there are many men who can see, who can perform this feat. 

I next tried my skill at riding on horseback alone, and the 
beast being a steady goer, and not apt to be frightened, I rode 
ten miles and back in perfect safety. 

After remaining some time there, I again applied my pack 
to my shoulders and started for Cherry Valley, where I had 
the misfortune to fall ill, and laid so for a long time, and in- 
curred a heavy bill of expense into the bargain. My boy being 
here a useless incumbrance, and not being well able to provide 
for him, I sent him home, for a while, though we were mutu- 
ally attached to each other. He was a good, honest, affection- 
ate, civil spoken lad, and had been entrusted to me by his 
father, partly to gratify his natural longing to see the world, 
and partly as being less likely to fall into evil courses under my 
care than elsewhere. In the mean time his parents removed 
to Michigan, and I saw him no more. 


When sufficiently recovered, I proceeded alone in the stage 
coach to Albany, and thence to New Lebanon, where I was 
kindly entreated by the honest Quakers, who would take no 
pay for my entertainment, though, from conscientious scruples, 
they would not buy a pedlar's goods. My next journey was 
three miles alone and on foot, to Hancock, and there they 
tackled a wagon on purpose to carry me on to Pitsfield, four- 
teen miles farther. Thence to Northampton, and still farther 
to Hartford, where I remained five months, having another 
inflammation in my eyes, and making an honest livelihood 
by peddling books and pamphlets, and then went to New 
York. There I found employment with a Mr. Whittington, 
who dealt largely in coffee and other aromatic vegetables. I 
was constantly occupied in grinding coffee two months. 

I found many blind persons in New York, and made myself 
acquainted with them, at their asylum, which is a noble foun- 
dation, and elsewhere. Thence I proceeded to Quakertown, 
or Philadelphia, in search of more profitable employment, 
which I did not find, though I sought it diligently three w r eeks. 
I fell in there with a blind man of no common intelligence, 
named Joseph Landport, with whom I speedily became pretty 
particularly intimate. We walked all over the city together, 
and he showed me the line-of-battle-ship Pennsylvania. I re- 
member, as we stood on her bulwarks, he remarked that " it 
would be one of the worst places in the world for a blind man 
to catch a fall, as there was nothing to grasp to save himself by." 
Her lower part was a perfect salt mine. He also took me to 
his house, and introduced me to his better half, whom I found 
of a character and temper similar to all the wives of other blind 
men I have known, excellent, mild, and amiable. 

From Philadelphia I repaired to Baltimore ; but no one had 
anything for the blind man to do. I then paid a visit to my 
friends on my way back to New York, and, on reaching them, 
was apprized of a misfortune worse than even deprivation of 
sight — the death of a kind and loving mother. My affliction was 
so violent, that it threw me into a fever, which again settled in 
my eyes, and I was obliged to go to the New York Hospital. 


Another evil assailed me — a large and dangerous lumor gath- 
ered on my shoulder, and it was necessary for me to undergo 
a cruel operation. I staid there five weeks, and gave but 
eight dollars for board, medicine, and advice. 

I now resolved to try my luck in Boston, and embarked in 
the steamer Benjamin Franklin. When I arrived in Provi- 
dence an accident befel me, that might have had serious conse- 
quences. Walking about the streets with my usual confidence, 
I fell off a steep bank, but was, luckily, more frightened than 
hurt, and it did not hinder me from reaching Boston in safety. 

It was here my good fortune to meet with that most excel- 
lent man and skillful practitioner, Dr. Warren, who showed me 
the utmost tenderness, and was the first who gave me any en- 
couragement to hope that my sight might be restored. It was 
a vain hope indeed ; but he did all the most consummate skill 
could do for me, and I am not the less obliged to him, that 
Divine Providence did not smile upon his efforts. I am truly 
glad that I am able, in this humble way, to express my grati- 
tude toward this good Samaritan. By his means I was intro- 
duced into the Hospital without charge ; and he performed an 
operation upon my eyes. It was exquisitely painful ; but, for 
a moment, I did enjoy the inestimable blessing of sight, and 
that was compensation enough. I saw my benefactor's face, 
and forget it I never shall. I saw it by the first ray of light 
that had visited my eyes for eight long years ; and the last, 
alas ! that I shall ever see. May God reward him ! But the 
light was soon darkened again, and at the close of two months 
I left the Hospital, as dark, and much more cheerless than 

But my gloom wore off again, and I found other friends, and 
kind ones. Passing one day by the Old South church, I met 
a large, strong man, who accosted me very abruptly, asking 
how old I was. Thinking, at first, from his manner, that his in- 
tention was to insult me, I thought to reply, " Not so old as I was 
when I was seventy ;" but immediately recollecting myself, I 
civilly told him my age. He then demanded if I had heard of 
such a place as the liberality of Mr. Perkins has provided for 


an Asylum for persons circumstanced like myself, and if I 
would like to enter it, or had taken any steps to gain admission. 
I told him I had not only seen, but had visited it — that I should 
like to be admitted ; but that, being poor and friendless, I had 
no means. He told me to go to Dr. Howe, and ask admission 
in his name, and he would attend to the rest. 1 went, obeyed 
his directions, was admitted, and was an inmate of the insti- 
tution (of which more will be said in another place) nine 
months. This benevolent gentleman was the late Lieutenant 
Governor Armstrong. 

I liked Dr. Howe, and was well treated by him. He Is a 
truly good man, and worthy of all commendation. But be- 
coming very well acquainted about the city, and finding friends 
everywhere, it appeared to me more proper to gain my living 
by my own industry, than to eat the bread of charity in compara- 
tive indolence. I therefore left the Asylum, and hired myself 
to work at the press for J. T. Buckingham, Esq., of whom I 
have to say, that all his dealings with me, and I truly think, 
with all others, were upright and honorable. I wrought for 
him six months, and then left his employ because I found the 
labor too severe for me. Since then I have gotten my bread 
by selling books and pamphlets, — by running errands, and do- 
ing any little service in my power for those who will employ 
me. I have at times accepted the aid that my misfortune has 
rendered necessary ; but I have never degraded myself by 
asking alms. 

I like this city — and have pleasure to walk in its pleasant 
places. I like the citizens — they are the most polite, civil, 
honest and humane, whose voices have reached my ears. As 
long as they will give the blind man a living, he will abide with 
them ; and when he dies, he hopes his bones will repose 
among them. 

" Boston forever ! city of my heart, 
Let other cities all look up to thee !" 

Only three times have I suffered reproach or insult in her 
streets. Once I fell into a cellar in Water street, and again into 
the same muddy and unwholesome hole, months after. My 


friends advised me to desire him to close his dangerous premises, 
or complain of him to the authorities for keeping them open 
so long. I chose the former, and was advised to go to the 
Alms House for my pains. 

Again, the same advice was gratuitously offered me by a 
merchant on Central wharf, who also nearly pushed me down 
stairs, to the great peril of my limbs. The only provocation 
was, offering to sell him a little book before dinner, and which 
would have cost him fifty cents, of which twenty-five would 
have been the commission of the blind man. The same cir- 
cumstance once occurred on Granite wharf. It will profit no 
one to know the names of these good men. 

Let not the reader think the blind necessarily destitute of 
intelligence. The Iliad, the Odyssey, and Paradise Lost, 
were written by blind men. A blind man was the savior of 
Rome ; and afterwards begged in vain in her streets for a 
penny. Ossian calls himself blind. The best surveyor at one 
time in England, saw nothing. Saunderson was professor of 
mathematics, and wrote books on algebra and optics. A hun- 
dred instances might be cited ; but the reader will best satisfy 
himself, by attending one of Dr. Howe's exhibitions. There 
is One who can illumine what is dark, as well as raise what is 
low. Him I thank for giving me comforts I did not know when 
I could see, and for supplying substitutes for the senses I have 

I can tell a dog from a cat, and form a pretty good guess at 
his weight, by the clatter of his claws on the side walk. I can 
distinguish most animals by similar tests. I can tell metals and 
minerals, by three, at least, of the senses. I can tell a man's 
size, weight, make, temper, age, whether his neck is long or 
short, by his voice and tread, and this I do by his tone, 
and the manner of his speech. If a man holds his head 
down in speaking, his neck is long ; if the contrary, the re- 
verse. I feel his voice strike me upwards, if short; down- 
wards, if tall. I can distinguish most woods by their differ- 
ent degrees of weight and hardness. I can say whether 
land, wood, or water is before me, by smell and sound. I 


know an African from a white, by his voice. I can pronounce 
what dishes are on table, and what flowers and fruits are in 
a garden, by the smell, and can judge of meat in the market, by 
the feeling. I can usually say how many persons are in a 
room, and what their sex may be ; and how many horses are 
in a vehicle. I can pronounce whether a room is empty or 
furnished, or how full a cask or a large box is. I can feel any 
obstacle in my way before I touch it. Whether a hill or level 
ground is before me, I can judge, only by groping. I can dis- 
tinguish different kinds of cloths and their quality, as well by 
touch as others do by sight. 

I cannot read now, though I was in Dr. Howe's excellent 
institution for sightless persons nine months, and had an opportu- 
nity to have learned, which I regret that I did not improve. 
The fact is, there are so few books and maps printed in 
the raised characters, that it is scarcely an object for a man 
who already has the rudiments of education, to study them. 
Nevertheless it would have been an amusement ; and I am 
confident I could have learned. Dr. Howe found no difficulty 
in teaching me the map of Boston ; and so perfectly do I know 
it, that I have frequently acted as a guide to seeing men. The 
celebrated David Crocket was not a little astonished at being 
led by me from the Tremont House to the Blind school. 

There is one thing that I have never been able to compre- 
hend ; and that is, it has been pretended that some blind men 
have been able to distinguish colors. If they could, they must 
have had some organs of perception of which I have no idea. 
I never could ; and I do not believe it. I can as soon believe 
that the shell of an oyster feels as keenly as the tips of my 
fingers, or that a tortoise can outstrip a horse. There are other 
means by which they may be enabled to impose on credulity. 
They might learn the flowers by the scent and commit the 
colors to memory; and they must hear that the color of a 
sailor's jacket is usually blue. 

I find my way with perfect ease and safety, by feeling for 
holes with my cane, by following the edges of the side walks, 
and by observing the general direction of the streets. The gas 


light posts are my chief annoyances. I wait for horses and 
carriages to pass, and judge of their distance by the ear. I can 
foretell the weather by the feeling of the atmosphere. I can 
think of no other particulars likely to gratify the curiosity of the 

To conclude ; whoever buys this little book, will perhaps find 
in it an equivalent for his money, and if not, he will at least 
have the satisfaction of having aided one upon whom the divine 
hand has been laid heavily. 



This gentleman was born in 1721, at Annan, in the county of Dum- 
fries, in Scotland. His parents were from Cumberland. His father 
was a bricklayer, and his mother the daughter of a dealer in cattle. 

He was not born blind, but lost his sight by the small pox at the age 
of six months. He was, therefore, kept at home, and his father en- 
couraged an extraordinary inclination for books, which he displayed 
at a very early age. The best authors of the age were read to him, 
and, with assistance, he gained some knowledge of the Latin tongue. 
Poetry was his chief delight, and Allan Ramsey was his especial fa- 
vorite. As early as his twelfth year, he began to write poems himself, 
one of which here follows, and may shew whether or not blind boys 
may be able to acquire education. 


How long shall I attempt in vain 
Thy smiles, my angel, to regain ? 
I '11 kiss your hand, I '11 weep, I '11 kneel : 
Will naught, fair tyrant, reconcile ? 
That gold-finch with her painted wings, 
Which gaily looks, and sweetly sings ; 
That, and if aught I have more fine, 
All, all, my charmer, shall be thine. 
When next mamma shall prove severe, 
I '11 interpose, and save my dear. 
Soften, my fair, those- angry eyes, 
Nor tear thy heart with broken sighs : 
Think, while that tender breast they strain, 
For thee what anguish I sustain. 
Should but thy fair companions view 
How ill that frown becomes thy brow, 
With fear and grief in every eye, 
Each would to each astonished cry, 


' Heavens, where is all her sweetness flown, 
How strange a figure now she's grown ! 
Run, Nancy, let us run, lest we, 
Grow pettish, awkward things as she.' 

'T is done, 't is done ; my cherub smiles, 
My grief suspends, my fear beguiles ; 
How the quick pleasure leaves my breast! 
Ah ! still be kind, and I '11 be blest." 

When he was nineteen, his father was killed by the fall of a malt 
kiln, but he found friends and protectors, who appreciated his uncom- 
mon genius. Some of his compositions being shown to Dr. Stevenson 
of Edinburgh, that gentleman took him to the capital, where he en- 
tered the University as a student of divinity, and there continued his 
studies four years. In the following year a volume of his poems was 
published. The rebellion then breaking out, he returned to Dumfries, 
where he remained with his brother-in-law, till the end of the troubles, 
when he returned to the University, and continued his studies six years 
longer. He became master of the learned languages, and of the French 
tongue ; attained a knowledge of philosophy and theology, and a con- 
siderable fund of other information. In 1759 he passed his examina- 
tion, and was licensed as a preacher by the Presbytery. He obtained 
a high reputation as an orator, divine and author, as will be seen by 
reading some volumes of his sermons, and his treatise on morals. 

His manner of life was so uniform that the history of one week of 
it is the history of the whole. Reading, music, walking, conversing 
and disputation, occupied almost his every hour. In argument he 
kept his temper admirably — no angry word was ever heard to fall 
from him. He was, however, very sensitive of insult to himself or 
his friends, and would sometimes revenge himself by satirical verses, 
which, however, he would burn in a few hours. 

He wrote, or rather dictated, with great readiness and rapidity, so 
that his amanuensis could scarcely keep up with him ; but if he was 
at a loss for a rhyme or a word, he stopped altogether and left the 
piece unfinished. He could not compose sitting, and he acquired a 
vibratory motion of body, which increased in proportion as his fancy 
warmed, and he was pleased with his subject. 

In 1762 he married a Miss Johnson, the daughter of a surgeon, and 
was truly blest in the connection. This was a few days before he was 
ordained minister of Kirkendbright, by presentation from the crown, 
which was obtained for him by the Earl of Selkirk. But, from what- 
ever cause, the inhabitants of that parish were so unwilling to receive 
him, that after two years of legal disputation, he compromised the 
matter, and accepted a small annuity instead. He had been inclined 


to this course from the first. With this little provision, he removed to 
Edinburgh, and to make up the deficiency of his means, he received a 
number of young gentlemen into his house as boarders, and assisted 
them in their studies. Thus he lived twenty-three years, when his 
declining health and age obliged him to discontinue the plan. In the 
mean while he had received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from the 
University of Aberdeen. 

No person was ever more agreeable to his pupils, and inmates of his 
house, than Dr. Blacklock. His mildness, his gentleness, and the 
warmth of his heart secured him the love and respect of all. The 
good man would sit in the midst of his young circle, all eager to pay 
him attention and do him kind offices. He seemed to forget his de- 
privation, and entered into the amusements of those around him with 
all the sprightliness of a young man. Music he loved, and was himself 
no mean performer on the flute and flageolet. He sung well, and 
was not ill pleased to be asked to do so. 

Late in life he was afflicted with deafness, which must of course 
have been a heavier calamity to him than to another. However, his 
gentleness never forsook him, and his confidence in divine goodness 
was not impaired. His hour arrived in the fulness of years. In sum- 
mer, 1791, he was attacked by fever, and died after a week's illness. 
His wife survived him. 

His works speak for themselves. 



It was one Sunday, as I travelled through the county of Orange, 
that my eye was caught by a cluster of horses tied near a ruinous old 
wooden house, in the forest, not far from the road side. Having fre- 
quently seen such objects before, in travelling through these states, I 
had no difficulty in understanding that this was a place of religious 

Devotion alone should have stopped me, to join in the duties of the 
congregation ; but I must confess, that curiosity to hear the preacher 
of such a wilderness, was not the least of my motives. On entering, 
I was struck with his preternatural appearance. He was a tall and 
very spare old man ; his head, which was covered with a white linen 
cap, his shrivelled hands, and his voice, were all shaking under the in- 
fluence of a palsy ; and a few moments ascertained to me that he was 
perfectly blind. 


The first emotions which touched my breast, were those of mingled 
pity and veneration. But ah ! sacred God ! how soon were all my 
feelings changed ! The lips of Plato were never more worthy of a 
prognostic swarm of bees, than were the lips of this holy man ! It 
was a day of the administration of the sacrament; and his subject, of 
course, was the passion of our Saviour. 1 had heard the subject han- 
dled a thousand times : I had thought it exhausted long ago. Little 
did I suppose, that in the wild woods of America, I was to meet with 
a man whose eloquence would give to this topic a new and more sub- 
lime pathos, than I had ever before witnessed. 

As he descended from the pulpit, to distribute the mystic symbols, 
there was a peculiar, a more than human solemnity in his air and 
manner, which made my blood run cold, and my whole frame shiver. 

He then drew a picture of the sufferings of our Saviour; his trial 
before Pilate ; his ascent up Calvary; his Crucifixion ; and his death. 
I knew the whole history; but never, until then, had I heard the cir- 
cumstances so selected, so arranged^ so colored ! It was all new : and 
I seemed to have heard it for the first time in my life. His enuncia- 
tion was so deliberate, that his voice trembled on every syllable; and 
every heart in the assembly trembled in unison. His peculiar phrases 
had that force of description, that the original scene appeared to be, at 
that moment, acting before our eyes. We saw the very faces of the 
Jews : the staring, frightful distortions of malice and rage. We saw 
the buffet: my soul kindled with a flame of indignation ; and my 
hands were involuntarily and convulsively clinched. 

But when he came to touch on the patience, the forgiving meek- 
ness of our Saviour ; when he drew, to the life, his blessed eyes 
streaming in tears to heaven ; his voice breathing to God, a soft and 
gentle prayer of pardon on his enemies, " Father, forgive them r for 
they know not what they do" — the voice of the preacher, which had 
all along faltered, grew fainter and fainter, until his utterance being en- 
tirely obstructed by the force of his feelings, he raised his handker- 
chief to his eyes, and burst into a loud and irrepressible flood of grief. 
The effect is inconceivable. The whole house resounded with the 
mingled groans, and sobs, and shrieks of the congregation. 

It was some time before the tumult had subsided, so far as to permit 
him to proceed. Indeed, judging by the usual, but fallacious standard 
of my own weakness, I began to be very uneasy for the situation of 
the preacher. For 1 could not conceive, how he would be able to 
let his audience down from the height to which he had wound them 
without impairing the solemnity and dignity of his subject, or perhaps 
shocking them by the abruptness of the fall. But— no : the descent was 
as beautiful and sublime, as the elevation had been rapid and enthu- 


The first sentence, with which he broke the awful silence, was a 
quotation from Rousseau : " Socrates died like a philosopher, but Je- 
sus Christ like a God!" 

I despair of giving you any idea of the effect produced by this short 
sentence, unless you could perfectly conceive the whole manner of the 
man, as weli as the peculiar crisis in the discourse. Never before did 
I completely understand what Demosthenes meant by laying such 
stress on delivery. You are to bring before you the venerable figure of 
the preacher : his blindness constantly recalling to your recollection 
old Homer, Ossian and Milton, and associating with his performance, 
the melancholy grandeur of their geniuses ; you are to imagine that 
you hear his slow, solemn, well-accented enunciation, and his voice of 
affecting, trembling melody; you are to remember the pitch of passion 
and enthusiasm to which the congregation were raised ; and then, the 
few minutes of portentous, deathlike silence which reigned throughout 
the house : the preacher removing his white handkerchief from his 
aged face, (even yet wet from the recent torrent of his tears,) and slow- 
ly stretching forth the palsied hand which holds it, begins the sentence : 
" Socrates died like a philosopher" — then pausing, raising his other 
hand, pressing them both clasped together, with warmth and energy 
to his breast, lifting his "sightless balls" to heaven, and pouring his 
whole soul into his tremulous voice — " but Jesus Christ — like a God t" 
If he had been indeed and in truth an angel of light, the effect could 
scarcely have been more divine. 

Guess my surprise, when, on my arrival at Richmond, and men- 
tioning the name of this man, 1 found not one person who had ever 
before heard of James Waddell ! Is it not strange, that such a genius 
as this, so accomplished a scholar, so divine an orator, should be per- 
mitted to languish and die in obscurity, within eighty miles of the 
metropolis of Virginia ? To me it is a conclusive argument, either 
that the Virginians have no taste for the highest strains of the most 
sublime oratory, or that they are destitute of a much more important 
quality, the love of genuine and exalted religion. 


Was born in Ardlach, a Highland parish of Scotland, on the banks 
of the Findhorn river, A. D. 1795. His father was minister of the 
parish. He was the youngest but one of seven children, all, but himself 
of perfect conformation. While he was yet a puling infant, his mother 
observed that he did not look at any bright object, and that no noise, 


however loud, could rouse him from his slumbers — from which she 
inferred the melancholy truth that he was both blind and deaf, and 
would consequently be dumb. Mother like, she loved him the better 
for his utter helplessness. 

As he grew older he could distinguish persons by the touch, and 
was very able to tell his own playthings from those of his brothers' and 
sisters'. He was generally good tempered, though somewhat irritable. 
His oldest sister did all she could to instruct him. When he behaved 
well, she patted him on the head — when otherwise, she would push 
him away. 

He fed himself, and let the family know when he was hungry, by 
pointing to the closet where provisions were kept. If he had a head- 
ache he would lay his head on some one's lap, and put his hand upon 
it ; if he was sick, he placed his own hand on his heart. He was fond 
of walking, and soon learned to find his way about, and even to run 
without fear. A little boy used to follow him to see that he came to 
no harm. He loved play, and had several little amusements, not alto- 
gether peculiar to himself. Toward the boy who was his companion 
he evinced his attachment in a manner something like that of the lame 
dog, who, having been cured by a surgeon, brought a friend of his 
own race to his benefactor's house to be cured also. 

While he was quite young he hurt his foot so severely that he could 
not walk, and used to sit by the fire with it upon a cricket. When he 
recovered, the cricket was conveyed to the garret. More than a year 
afterwards, his little companion received a hurt of the same nature. 
James missed him, and after having ascertained where he was, and 
what ailed him, by feeling, immediately went to the garret, found the 
cricket, went to the kitchen and gently placed the child's foot upon it. 

He was fond of the stable, into which he would go with a whip, 
when any strangers arrived, and examine matters and things. He felt 
of the legs of those he met, to know if they wore boots. Fearing 
that he would come to harm, his parents bade the servants watch 
and prevent his visits to the stable. Uneasy of being deprived of his 
favorite amusement, he took occasion to lock the kitchen door, while 
all the domestics were within, and then went to the stable. 

He was often in great danger. He discovered new walks about 
the grounds, and every day extended his geographical knowledge. 
Not far from the house was a deep and rapid stream, with a very nar- 
row bridge over it. One day his father found the poor helpless boy 
in the very act of creeping over. To prevent him from go^Jg thither 
again, he twice had him put into the river, after which J^e was careful 
to go there no more. 

Mr. Mitchell, too, was fond of his blind son, nod when he was fifteen 
took him to a Dr. Gordon, at Forres, who examined his eyes, and 


counselled that he should be taken to London. Thither they went, 
to the celebrated Dr. Cooper, who would have couched his eyes ; but 
the boy struggled so violently that the assistants could not hold his 
head still enough. They then returned home, and two years after 
Mr. Mitchell again took his son to Dr. Gordon, who ascertained, by 
several experiments, that James had so far gained the use of his 
eyes, as to be able to see white paper when placed before him. After 
a while, however, he was as blind as ever. 

When the forlorn child was seventeen, his father died, and it was 
observed that he shrunk with instinctive dread on touching the dead 
body. He had never touched a corpse before, and could not have 
known what death meant. The feeling must have been purely instinc- 
tive ; for he showed no sorrow at the funeral, but examined the assis- 
tants, and walked smilingly with them to the grave. Nevertheless, he 
missed his parent, and for some time after, went every day to the grave 
and patted the green turf with his hands. He shewed no signs of sor- 
row, though he did of uneasiness. A little while after Mr. Mitchell 
died, his wife fell sick, and James was admitted to her chamber. 
Finding that she was ill, he wept, perhaps thinking that she would fol- 
low his father. 

A tailor came to the house to make him a suit of clothes. He took 
the man to the room where his father died, stretched his head back- 
ward, and then led him to the grave. Soon after, being ill himself, he 
was put into the same bed, and was so unwilling to remain there 
that it was found necessary to remove him, after which he was quiet. 
He also remembered his father's habits. A clergyman coming to 
spend an evening, James pointed to Mr. Mitchell's bible, and made 
signs to the family to kneel. He was an affectionate lad, and was 
always anxious lest any of his friends should be hurt. One day his 
sister, walking in the damp grass, her feet were wetted. Discovering 
this, he was uneasy till she changed her shoes. He knew that her 
feet were wet, and many other things, by the smell. It was thus that 
he discovered the presence of a stranger, and the place where he 

James was often much troubled to discover what was going on, and 
one day was very uneasy at his mother's absence. His sister placed 
his head on the pillow once for every day she would be gone. He un- 
&tood her at once, and was quiet. He seldom attempted to work, 
though he would sometimes try to assist any of the servants whom 
he liked. He seemed to have a correct idea of a house, and would 
build models, of turf, leaving holes for the windows. He could not 
learn to make baskets. He would not play with children, but was 
fond of infants, whom he would take in his arms. After a time his 
sight was so far revived tfts* he could tell a bright object from a dark 


one, and could distinguish a difference of colors. This was discovered 
by his putting objects of different hues together. He compared the 
flower of the mustard plant with the yellow epaulette of an officer. 
He would sort flowers, putting the red by themselves, and the blue 
by themselves, &c, and would follow a person with a red cloak. One 
of his greatest pleasures was, to put on new clothes. He would stay 
by the tailor while they were being made, and be angry at any delay. 
He was very happy in the company of the shoe maker on like occa- 

He knew a horse that had belonged to his father, and shewed pleas- 
ure at the meeting, led him to the stable, took off the saddle, and gave 
him corn. 

When James was about eighteen, his mother removed to Nairn, 
from which he learned to wander several miles, but always returned 
at dinner time. He liked to be in a carpenter's shop, and to handle 
their tools. 

He had a considerable degree of reflection. Finding that a new 
pair of shoes were too small for him, his mother put them into a 
closet. A day or two after, a new thought struck the blind boy. He 
got the shoes and put them upon the feet of the boy who attended 
him. He would lock people into the stable, and once pretended to 
look through a knot hole, from which it appears he knew that others 
could see, and how. At sixteen he learned to smoke, and would go 
to a shop for pipes and tobacco. Once being sent for two pipes, he 
returned with one only in his hand, and it was found that he had hid- 
den the other under his jacket. He laughed heartily at the jest. 

When James was nearly eighteen, Dr. Gordon wrote of him as fol- 
lows: — " He communicates his ideas by natural signs. As soon as I 
began to examine his eyes opposite a window, he turned to his sister 
and stretched out his arm laterally, which was his usual sign for Lon-> 
don. It is obviously the expression of distance. For getting on 
horseback he raises his foot, and brings his fingers under his feet in 
imitation of stirrups. He puts his hand to his mouth to express food. 
By an anxiety to leave the house, and an imitation of the manner of 
stitching shoes, he intimated a wish to go to the shoemaker's. He took 
his sister's teasing him, by getting in his way, in good humor, as he 
also did her taking a whip from him. On her trying to persuade him 
that a large dog was a horse, he laughed, and made a motion as if 
to mount the animal." 

After his mother's death, which happened about 1825, James's 
sister writes thus of him : — 

" My Dear Sir, — I think my mother's death has influenced James's 
conduct, and softened his temper more than any event in his life. 
During her life, when I refused compliance with any capricious wish, 


he made an appeal to her ; but since her death, he has scarcely ever 
attempted asking any thing out of the common routine, and if he has 
done so, and been refused, he has taken the first opportunity of getting 
over his displeasure. On one occasion, when he had broken his pipe 
before another had become due, he thought he might supply himself 
by some half-pence which had been left in the cupboard, and came 
hanging about me with the broken pipe, and a half-penny shoved into 
it. When I found myself obliged to notice him, I signed to him to 
replace the half-penny in the cupboard ; which he did immediately, but 
in very. ill humor, and left the room, slamming the door. However, 
he returned in a little time with a new pipe, having been more suc- 
cessful in an appeal he had made to some of his friends, his good hu- 
mor perfectly restored, showing me his prize, and apparently expecting 
me to participate in his pleasure. I gave him a fixed allowance of 
pipes and tobacco, consisting of two pipes, and about the third of an 
ounce of tobacco every day. Two days ago he evinced a sense of 
justice, on one of these occasions, as strong as any I have seen him 
exhibit. It is usual to give him a new pipe after dinner, and it is 
generally brought into the room a short time previous. On the oc- 
casion alluded to, he broke the pipe, and put the tobacco into an old 
one he had in his pocket. I remarked the action, but took no no- 
tice of it until he turned round after dinner, as usual, for his pipe, 
when I took the two matches generally given along with it, and put 
them into his hand, and he very quietly took them, and smoked with his 
old pipe, and did not ask another, until it became his right, after break- 
fast, the next morning. 

" The most striking effect my mother's death had on him, was 
the fear of losing me also. He, for a short time, appeared to be un- 
willing to quit me for an instant ; and when I did get away from 
him, he went through every part of the house in quest of me. Now, 
though not appearing to labor under the same fear, the efforts he some- 
times makes to secure my services are really odd. I have known 
him sit for half an hour and upwards, watching the movements of our 
servant, until satisfied of her being fairly out of the way, and then 
come for me to light his pipe, or to render him any other service, being 
certain of my attendance in her absence. When I happen to be from 
home for a day or two, all the repairs which his clothes require, are 
kept until my return, or if he has been absent himself, he is sure to 
find some employment for me on his return. 

" He continues to take an interest in the employment of the work- 
men in town, and in their work ; particularly mason-work, examin- 
ing what has been done in his absence, and fearlessly ascends the 
highest part of their scaffolding. While the addition lately made to 
this house, was roofing, I saw him ascending the slaters' ladder, and 


getting on the roof. Laying himself down, and fixing his heel in a 
rough part of the surface, he moved himself along, one foot after 
another, until the fear of his slipping rendered me unable to remain 
longer to look at him. I believe such is his common practice, when- 
ever anything of the kind is carrying on. He is so inoffensive, that 
all classes contribute towards his safety, and to his amusement; allow- 
ing him to enter their houses, and handle whatever he has a mind to, 
as he never attempts carrying anything away with him, nor injuring 
it while in his possession. Indeed, except in cne instance, I never 
knew him exposed to any unpleasant treatment in these visits. It was 

in the case of a family of the name of , who came to reside in 

this neighborhood, and who were unacquainted with his situation. 
When he went out as usual to the house, (where he had been accus- 
tomed to range at pleasure,) and began to feel the umbrellas, and other 
articles in the lobby, they remonstrated with him, and getting no reply, 
then proceeded to turn him out of doors, which they effected, after 
receiving as many blows as he could bestow in the struggle. 

"He was afterwards seen by two gentlemen, bellowing with rage. 
They wished to get hold of and soothe him, but found it impossible, 
from the rate at which he was going ; and although regretting his ap- 
parent irritation, they were not a little amused, upon approaching 
the house, to see a domestic peeping fearfully out at a half open door, 
and the other members of the family, which consisted mostly of fe- 
males, at the windows whence they could obtain a view of the person 
who had been the cause of so much fear and trouble to them. He 
has given up going to church for four years, probably because he found 
the confinement irksome. He walks about contentedly, during morn- 
ing service, but expects the house to be kept open for him, during 
the afternoon. 

" I have mentioned those particulars that have occurred to me, and 
shall not attempt an apology for the manner. James's visit to Relu- 
gas, has several times occurred to me. The only thing respecting it, 
in which there could be misconception, is the idea of his having 
thought of paying for his food, as I have never been aware of his 
having any idea connected with money, farther than its being a means 
of procuring pipes and tobacco. I have been told that upon half a 
crown being given him, he had gone into a shop, and laid it on the 
counter, and the wished for articles not being given him immediately, 
he had taken it and thrown it to the opposite side of the street, as 
being utterly worthless. On another occasion I know he carried home 
a similar sum, and gave it to the maid servant, who chanced to be the 
only member of the family he could meet with. I consider the action 
as merely indicative of satisfaction." 

James Mitchell died at the age of thirty-two. 



This wonderful man was born at Thurlston, in Yorkshire, in 1682. 
His father was in easy circumstances, and was therefore able to give 
him every advantage. At the age of one year, the child lost not only 
his sight, hut his eyes also, which came away by abscess. At riper 
years, he had no more idea of light or colors, than if he had been 
born blind. 

He was early sent to the free school at Penniston, where he learned 
the rudiments of Greek and Latin, which he afterwards so improved, 
by his own application, as to be able to read Euclid, Archimedes and 
Diophantus in the original. Latin he could not only read but write, 
elegantly. French he understood, and was perfectly well acquainted 
with the classics and belles-lettres. When he had done with the 
grammar school, his father began to instruct him in arithmetic, for 
which he presently displayed an extraordinary aptitude. £Ie made 
long calculations from memory, and formed rules of his own for the 
solution of problems, so that, in any difficulty, the scholars applied to 
him for instruction, rather than to the master. 

At eighteen, Mr. Richard Underbank was induced by his uncom- 
mon capacity, to teach him algebra and geometry, in which he was 
assisted by Dr. Nettleton. They furnished him with books, and read 
and explained them to him ; but he soon became able to teach them. 
His passion for learning grew with his growth, and his father sent him 
to a private academy in Attercliff, where logic and metaphysics were 
the principal studies. Neither of these matters were agreeable to our 
blind hero, and he therefore made but a short stay in the school. He 
remained some time in the country, prosecuting his studies in his own 
way, without any assistance, excepting that of a person to read to him ; 
for he could master any difficulty that occurred, by the force of his 
genius. But now, his father's family having much increased, his friends 
began to think of putting his abilities to some practical use, and it was 
resolved that he should go to the University at Cambridge, as a teacher, 
to which place he went in the year 1707, and a chamber was given 
him in Christ's college. The society were much pleased with him, 
gave him the use of their library, and afforded him every facility. 

Mr. Whiston was then mathematical professor, and good-naturedly 
consented that young Saunderson should take a class. His fame soon 
spread far and wide, men of learning sought his acquaintance, and so 
many applied for his instruction, that he could not find time to attend 
to them all. Sir Isaac Newton's Treatise on Optics, and his Universal 
Arithmetic, were the basis of his lectures, however strange it may seem 
that a blind man should teach another the powers of the eye. 

Upon Mr. Whiston's removal from the professorship, Queen Ann 


issued a mandate to the heads of the colleges to confer on Mr. Saun- 
derson the degree of Master of Arts, upon which he was chosen 
Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in November, 1711. He was re- 
commended to this preferment by the great Sir Isaac. His first per- 
formance in the chair was an elegant speech in Latin, which was 
received with great applause. 

From this time he gave himself wholly to the duties of his station 
till 1723, when he took a house in Cambridge, and married the daugh- 
ter of the Rev. Win. Dickens, by whom he had a son and daughter, 
who both survived him. In 1728, George the Second paid a visit to 
the University, and expressed a wish to see Dr. Saunderson, who 
accordingly waited upon him, and was created Doctor of Laws. 

Dr. Saunderson's constitution was naturally strong, but his seden- 
tary habits brought on a scorbutic habit of body, and, for some years, 
he was afflicted with a numbness in his lower limbs. This, in the 
year 1739, ended in a mortification in the foot, and his blood was in so 
ill a state that no art could stop its progress. He died the 19th of 
April, in the 57th year of his age, and was buried in the chancel at 
Boxworth. He was regretted as a public loss, and especially by those 
who were acquainted with his private character. 

Dr. Saunderson did not pretend to be able to distinguish colors — on 
the contrary, he satisfied himself that that was an impossibility. But 
he could distinguish the least roughness with great nicety. He detect- 
ed a counterfeit set of Roman medals which had baffled the knowledge 
of a connoisseur, by the roughness of the new cast. The least varia- 
tion of the atmosphere was sensibly felt by him. He could tell when 
an object was held before his face, or when he passed near a tree, if 
the air was calm. 

He had a board bored full of small holes, which were stopped with 
pegs of different sizes, by which means he made his arithmetical cal- 
culations, and pegged down sums, products and quotients with perfect 
accuracy. He calculated the schemes in geometry that lie in different 
planes by an armillary sphere, and had the regular solids cut in wood, 
by which he was able to communicate his ideas to his pupils. 

His hearing was as acute as his touch — he could distinguish the fifth 
part of a note, and had an extraordinary taste for music. He played 
well on the flute. By this sense he distinguished persons, and could 
tell the size of a room, or the distance of the wall, and on walking in 
any place, for the second time, he could say exactly whereabout he 
was placed. 

He could, in his mind, multiply, divide, extract the square and cube 
roots, work algebraic calculations, infinite series, &c. with the greatest 
accuracy. Nay, he could detect and correct slips of the pen as well 
in signs as numbers. In the more abstruse studies, when once he had 


obtained a perception of any scheme, however perplexed, he never 
required any further assistance. He saw the whole, every link in the 
chain of reasoning, at a glance. In his address as a teacher, he was 
superior to all others. He perfectly knew the difficulties of young 
minds, and how to obviate them. His expression was clear and forci- 
ble, and his method so just that no one was at a loss to follow him. 

His inclination was not for the abstracted parts of mathematics, 
which end only in contemplation. To engage his attention, a propo- 
sition must have its uses. He considered this science the key to phi- 
losophy, and thought the mind was better entertained in exploring the 
works of nature, than in pondering upon the subtile properties of ab- 
stract quantity. 

There was scarcely any part of mathematics on which this great 
man had not wrote something, but it was only when the intensity of 
his professional labors had brought on a violent fever, that, at the so- 
licitation of his friends, he gave himself leisure to throw his writings 
into form. In a very short time he produced the splendid work that 
he bequeathed to posterity. 

His talents were not confined to study. There never was a more 
agreeable companion. He spoke so much of objects of sight that one 
who did not look at him would not have supposed him blind. His 
judgments on the passions and interests of mankind were as acute as 
those on philosophical subjects. The beauty of his expression sur- 
prised all who listened to him. Above all, his reverence for truth 
shone forth in every circumstance of his life and conversation. His 
sentiments on men and things, his praises and censures, his friendship 
or disregard, were expressed without reserve. This frankness made 
friends of all who were honored with his acquaintance or esteem, but 
made him enemies of many of whom he thought ill — a natural conse- 
quence of his scrupulous and disinterested sincerity. 

When he was informed that his most sanguine friends had no hope 
of his recovery, he heard them with calmness and serenity, and, after 
a short silence, resumed his gaiety and spirits, and conversed with as 
much composure as he had ever done when in perfect health. He 
appointed the following evening to receive the last sacrament ; but 
before that time came, he was seized with a delirium, which continued 
till his death. 

"It is said of Democritus, that he put out his own eyes, that he 
might think more intensely ; imagining that the acuteness of the mind 
was taken off by the sight." 

" Eusebius, an Asiatic, who was blind from the age of five years, 
had treasured up in his mind all kinds of learning, and explained them 
with the greatest clearness to others." 


"Dydimus of Alexandria, though blind from his infancy, and there- 
fore igncant of the very letters, not only learned logic, but geometry, 
to perfection." 

" Diodotus, Tully's master in philosophy, exercised himself with 
more assiduity after he became blind, and taught geometry, describing 
his diagrams so clearly, that his scholars could draw every line in its 
proper direction." 


The life of the blind seldom presents much variety of incident, and 
thus it is that a memoir of the great, the immortal Milton can occupy 
but a small spare. He was born in K>08, in London. His father was 
a man of easy circumstances, and could afford to provide him with 
private tutors, from whose instructions he derived considerable benefit. 
He was afterwards sent to St. Paul's school and finally to Cambridge, 
where he remained some years, and took the degrees of B. A. and 
M. A. Declining to take holy orders, he retired to his father's house 
at Horton, in Buckinghamshire, and resided there five years, during 
which he pursued his studies with an ardor and diligence which have 
seldom been equalled, and besides storing his mind with learning, pro- 
duced the exquisite poems, Coimis and Lueidas, which alone could 
have given him a rank inferior to none in British literature, but which 
have been cast into the shade by the transcendent lustre of the Para- 
dise Lost. 

On the death of his mother, in 1638, Milton obtained his father's 
consent to make a tour on the Continent, in the prosecution of which he 
was received with the greatest attention by the most eminent men of 
the time. After an absence of fifteen months he returned to England, 
with the acquisition of many honorable friendships, and a great addi- 
tion to his stock of knowledge. It had been his intention to visit 
Greece, but the civil commotions which preceded the rebellion were 
commencing, and he thought it his duty to uplift his voice among the 
loudest in the cause of liberty. 

Immediately after Cromwell had usurped the royal power, Milton 
was appointed Latin secretary of the government, and besides dis- 
charging the duties of the office, distinguished himself by several 
works in the defence of republican principles, and of the leaders in 
the revolutionary struggle. Before he obtained this situation, he had 
some domestic troubles, which, probably, had a strong influence on 
his feelings and opinions. In 1643 he married a Miss Powell, whose 


connections were all staunch royalists, and Milton's lady shared their 
feelings, opinions and prejudices. Whig and Tory could no more 
agree than fire and tow, and, in little more than a month after their 
marriage, Mrs. Milton asked permission to visit her family, and soon 
after gave her husband to understand that she never intended to re-, 
turn to him. This caused him to publish some very free notions on 
the subject of divorce, and he was about to marry again, when his 
wife came to her senses, and, upon repentance, was restored to favor. 
At this time he taught a school, by which he was enabled to support, 
not only his own family, but also his father and mother-in-law, who 
had lost their property, like other leading members of the royalist 

After suffering for some time under a disease of the eyes, in 1649 
he lost the sight of them entirely, and never recovered it. But this 
caused no diminution of his ardor for learning. He commenced a 
history of England, but carried it no farther than the Norman Con- 
quest, and also wrote part of a Latin Thesaurus, which was published 
in the Cambridge Dictionary of 1693. Events now happened, which 
checked his temporal prosperity, but compensated him by concen- 
trating the powers of his mind. But for the Restoration, which took 
place about this time, the world would probably never have seen his 
noble epic. He lost his office, was driven into obscurity, and was for 
some time in danger of suffering for the active part he had taken in 
the councils of the revolutionary government. Fortunately for the 
world, his genius was no longer to be occupied with politics. He 
was left in peace and solitude, and the splendid revelations of his im- 
agination burst forth. He dictated the Paradise Lost to his two daugh- 
ters. He felt the loss of his sight keenly, as will appear from the fol- 
lowing pathetic lines: — 

" Thus with the year 
Seasons return, but not to me returns 
Day, or the sweet approach of ev'n or morn, 
Or sight of vernal bloom, or summer's rose, 
Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine ; 
But cloud instead, and ever during dark 
Surrounds me. From the cheerful ways of men 
Cut off; and for the book of knowledge fair, 
Presented with a universal blank 
Of Nature's works, to me expunged and rased, 
And wisdom at one entrance quite shut out." 
Again, in the Sampson Agonistes, he thus vents his repinings: — 
"O loss of sight, of thee I most complain ! 
Blind among enemies ! O worse than chains, 
Dungeon, or beggary, decrepid age! 



Light, the prime work of God, to me's extinct; 

And all her various objects of delight 

Annulled, which might, in part, my grief have eased. 

Inferior to the vilest now become 

Of man or worm. 

Oh dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon, 

Irrecoverably dark ; total eclipse, 

Without all hope of day." 
Paradise Lost was completed in 1665, when Milton was near sixty 
years old. At that time he had been blind several years, and also 
suffered from gout, from which he was seldom free. His fortunes 
had been continually fluctuating, and he had witnessed many domes- 
tic reverses. His first wife had died, and he had taken unto himself 
another, whom he also lost within a year. But his blindness render- 
ing the services of a companion absolutely necessary to him, he 
married for the third time, and his third wife survived him. While 
these events were happening, he lived in almost every part of London ; 
but finally settled in Bunhill Row. 

Several difficulties prevented the publication of the Paradise Lost, 
after it was completed, which were partly owing to the licenser, who 
could raise any objections he chose against any book, partly to the 
booksellers, who were like booksellers in our own days, afraid of risk, 
and partly to the state of the public mind at the time. There was no 
reading public, no book clubs, circulating libraries, or facilities for cir- 
culating literary works. Men of fortune and talents only were in the 
habit of reading; a small part of the body of the population. There 
was, indeed, a popular literature, but it was gross and sensual, appeal- 
ing to the vilest passions of mankind. The poetry of Milton was 
above the age. The booksellers would give only five pounds for the 
Paradise Lost! with the agreement that five more should be paid after 
the sale of thirteen hundred of the first edition, and the same sum 
after the sale of the same number of the second, which stipulation was 
also to extend to the third edition. The name of this encourager of 
literature was Simmons, a printer. All that Milton lived to receive 
was ten pounds. He died the same year the second edition was pub- 
lished. The work reached the third edition in ten years. 

About three years after the publication of the Paradise Lost, the 
History of England before mentioned, was printed, and, in the fol- 
lowing year, 1671, Paradise Regained, and Sampson Agonistes ap- 
peared. The former of these poems was written by the advice of one 
Elwood, a quaker, who had been Milton's pupil, and to whom he had 
shown the manuscript of the Paradise Lost. " Well," says the quaker, 
"thou hast said much of Paradise Lost, friend John— but what hast 
thou to say of Paradise Regained ?" Milton made no answer, but 


took the first opportunity to drop the subject, from which it appears 
that his own judgment of the Paradise Regained was the same as that 
of posterity. 

Few men of letters have ever suffered so much from the cares of 
life as Milton did. There is reason to think, either that his passions 
were not naturally strong, or that he learned to subdue them at an 
early age. He was sincere and constant in his friendships, but he 
wrote to his friends with scrupulous precision, and seemed to find a 
greater relish in the intercourse when the learned spirit of antiquity 
assisted it. Love of woman never made him neglect severe assump- 
tion of authority, and no melting tenderness entered into his composi- 
tion, either as child, husband, or father. There was a calmness and 
tranquillity in his manner, amounting to sternness. The ordinary pas- 
sions of our nature seem to have had little influence over him. His 
master feeling was the love of freedom. In the only retirement of his 
home, oppressed with care and blindness, and wearied with the chan- 
ges of fortune, this passion burned as fiercely as in his youth. When 
he saw his fondest hopes disappointed by the destruction of the Com- 
monwealth, he appears to have cherished a bitterness of feeling, as 
well as an enduring sorrow, that must have had its effect in shoiten- 
ing his days. His death took place on the 10th of November, 1674, 
at his residence, and he was buried in the chancel of St. Giles's Chap- 
el. In 1737, a monument was erected to his memory in Westminster 

Milton's person is described as of the middle size, and his features as 
of surpassing beauty. While at Cambridge, he was railed "the lady 
of Christ's College," and it is related of him, that, while sleeping under 
a tree, a lady of rank was so smitten with him, that she kissed him. 
In his advanced age he suffered so severely, that his hands became 
almost deformed and his face of a sickly paleness. His habits were 
extremely temperate, and he was studious to the last year of his life. 
lie rose at four or five, and retired at nine. The first thing he did on 
rising, was to hear a chapter read in the Bible, and he then studied the 
subjects he was occupied with till twelve, after which he took au 
hour's exercise, and then dined. With playing on the organ, an hour 
or two of study and conversation with friends, the day was concluded, 
and having eaten a few olives, smoked a pipe, and drank a glass of 
water, he retired to rest. 

Milton had five children, four by his first and one by his second 
wife, and of these, three daughters survived him. One of them only 
had children, and there is no lineal descendant from him now living. 



The name of this eminent practitioner is put at the head of this 
notice, because, though he has given the world the history of the case 
to be mentioned, he has not thought fit to give the name of the patient. 
What is known of the matter will be here set down, and nothing 

The young gentleman upon whom Dr. Cheselden operated, though 
said to be blind, was not totally so. Like others who have cataracts, 
he could discern day from night, and could distinguish bright colors 
in a strong light, though he could not tell the shape of anything, unless 
by feeling. The reason of this is, that the light by which such per- 
ceptions are lead is let in through a thick humor, and the person 
afflicted sees in the same manner that he would, if looking through a 
glass of jelly. Thus it was with this young man, who could distin- 
guish the colors in a good light, yet did not know them when he saw 
them after being couched. Like other persons in like circumstances, 
he thought scarlet the most beautiful of all colors, and of others, the 
most gay were the most pleasing to him. Black was very painful to 
him, and the first time he saw a negro woman he was struck with 

When the operation was performed, and he saw, he could form no 
judgment of distances; but thought all objects touched his eyes, and 
none were agreeable to him, but such as were smooth and regular. 
He could form no idea of their shape, nor did he know one thing from 
another, whatever might be their difference in magnitude; but upon 
being told what things were which he formerly knew from the touch, 
he would say that he might, perhaps, know them again. As he had 
too many things to learn at once, he forgot some of them, and, as he 
said, first learned to know, and then forgot a thousand things a> day. 
He had several times forgotten to distinguish the dog from the cat, and 
was ashamed to ask, but he caught a cat, which he knew by feeling,, 
and then, setting her down, said, "So, puss, J shall know you another 

He was greatly surprised that those things which had appeared 
most agreeable to his touch and taste, were not the most so to his 
eyes. He expected that the persons he most loved would be the 
handsomest. He could not tell what pictures represented, and it was 
not till two months after he was couched, that he discovered that they 
were intended for solid bodies. Up to that lime he took the m for 
party-colored planes, of painted surfaces, iiven then, he was no less 
surprised that they did not feel like the things they were intended to 
represent, and was amazed that what appeared prominent and uneven 
by the lights and shadows, was flat, and asked "which was the lying 
sense, seeing or feehngi* 


Being shown his father's miniature in a locket, and told what it was, 
he saw the likeness, and was very much surprised at it, asking how it 
could he that a large face could be compressed into so little room, and 
said it would have seemed as impossible to him, as to put a bushel of 
anything into a pint measure. 

At first, his eyes were too weak to bear a strong light, and whatever 
he saw he thought extremely large ; hut on seeing things of still greater 
magnitude, he conceived those he had first seen to be less, having 
no conception of any lines beyond the bounds of his vision. He knew 
that the room he was in w;is but a part of the house, yet he could not. 
conceive that the whole house could look bigger than the part. Before 
he was couched, he expected little benefit from seeing, excepting 
reading and writing, for he thought he 'could have no more pleas- 
ure in walking abroad than he had in the garden, which he could do 
with ease and safety. There was this advantage in being blind, he 
said, that he could go about much better in the dark than those 
who saw ; and he did not lose this ability for a long while, or require 
a light to go about the house after dark. Every new object was to 
him a new delight, and he was by no means able to express his satis- 
faction. His gratitude to Dr. Cheselden he could not conceal. For 
some time, the tears would start into his eyes whenever he saw him, 
and if he did not happen to come at the time expected, he could 
scarcely forbear weeping at the disappointment. 

Being carried upon Epsom Downs a year after his sight was restored, 
he was exceedingly delighted with the wide prospect before him, and 
called it a new kind of seeing. And being now lately couched of his 
other eye, he said that objects appeared large to this eye, but not so 
large as they did at first to the other. Looking upon the same object 
with both eyes, he thought it looked twice as large as with the first 
couched eye only, but not double, as many had expected it would. 

It is related of this young man, that he had been accustomed to re- 
ceive the services of a young lady, who was not particularly remarka- 
ble for beauty, and to whom he was betrothed. They were mutually 
attached. When he was about to be couched, she took him by the 
hand and told him that he would doubtless see beauty that would 
banish her from his affections. He replied that he never could, and 
he kept his word. 

Dr. Cheselden says, that he restored the sight of several other per- 
sons who had no recollection of ever having seen, and they all gave 
the same account of their learning to see as the young man, above 
commemorated, though not so fully and distinctly. They all said this ; 
that, never having had occasion to move their eyes, they did not know 
how to do it, and could not, at first, direct them to a particular object, 
but in time they acquired that faculty. 



This man, who was commonly known by the name of Blind Jack, 
was, perhaps, the most extraordinary person whose memory is pre- 
served. Though he became blind at a very early age, his knowledge 
of the country (Derbyshire) was such, that he was employed as a wag- 
oner, and, occasionally, as a guide in intricate roads during the night, 
or when the tracks were covered with snow. He at last became a 
projector and surveyor of highways, in that difficult and mountainous 
region, the last occupation one would suppose a blind man would 
think of. Nevertheless, his abilities were such that he never lacked 
employment, and most of the roads about the Peak of Derbyshire were 
altered and improved by his directions. With the assistance of a long 
staff only, he was seen traversing the roads, ascending rocks and preci- 
pices, exploring vallies, and investigating their extents, forms and 
situations, so as to answer his designs in the best manner. 

A blind man who lived at Puisaux, in France, was a chemist and 
musician, and could very well estimate the proportions of objects. He 
could judge of distances or of heights, or if liquor was poured into a 
cask he could tell how full it was by the noise made by the running. 
Like Dr. Saunderson and others, he discovered the proximity of ob- 
jects, by the action of the air upon his face. He was also a good 
judge of weights and of the capacities of vessels. 


This gentleman was famous in his generation for couching cata- 
racts. One case, particularly, described by him, was an operation on 
a Master W., seven years old. 

The child made no exclamation during the operation, nor did he 
make the smallest motion with his head or hands. The eye was im- 
mediately bound up. The next day he made no complaint. On the 
second day, the doctor found him standing near the fire, with a hand- 
kerchief tied loosely over his eyes, and he said he could see the table, 
by which his mother was silting, under the bandage, lie observed, 


that it was covered with a green cloth, and that it was a little farther 
off than he could read), which was really the case. 

The Doctor then held a letter before him, a foot from his eyes, and 
after a little hesitation he said that it was a piece of paper, longer in 
one direction than the other, and that he knew it was square by the 
corners. He pointed to the corners very readily. A small oblong 
band box, covered with red leather, was then shown to him, and lie 
at once said it was red and square, and pointed out the corners. He 
also distinguished the shape and appearance of an oval silver box. He 
then ealled a mug a basin, but presently corrected himself and said he 
knew it was a mug, by the handle. He was also sensible of the differ- 
ence of distance, when any object was removed farther from or nearer 
to him. These experiments gave him no pain. 

Before this, he had never been able to distinguish any object what- 
ever, and could only discern colors when they were very strong. On 
the third day the light gave him no pain. Being shown a knife, he 
said it was a spoon, but soon saw his em r, and distinguished the blade 
from the handle, lie likewise recognizee! a yello\V pocket-book, and 
pointed out the silver clasp. He knew what the Doctor's hand was, 
but could not tell the number of the fingers, or see any difference be- 
tween one and another of them, until he was taught. Dark colored, 
smooth objects, were more pleasing to him than those that were 
light and rough. Two days after, he saw, from the' window, a 
dancing bear in the street, and distinguished a number of boys who 
were standing about him, especiilly noticing one who had a bundle 
of clothes on his head. On the same evening a looking-glass was held 
before him, upon which he said that lie saw his own shadow. He 
could not then distinguish the features; but the next day he could. 

In another case, where the patient was fourteen years old, and had 
never before seen, precisely the same results were obtained. The lad 
took hold of his hand at different distances, saying, whether it was 
brought nearer to, or carried farther from him. These things do not 
agree with the impressions of Mr. Cheselden's patient, who imagined 
that every object touched his eyes. 

Mr. Everard Howe couched a boy twelve years old, who could 
discern light, but neither form nor color. He was only imperfectly 
restored to sight, and he thought that all visible things touched his 
eyes. Another patient of the same gentleman, a boy of seven, could 
distinguish both light and color, and with him the operation was 
wholly successful. He could distinguish distances instantly, but it 
was long before he could judge of form. He said a pair of scissors 
was a knife, and a guinea he called a seven shilling piece. Four days 
after the operation he was allowed to go about, and on going to the 
window, his attention was attracted to a horse and cart. These he 


pronounced to be a dog drawing a wheelbarrow. The same mistake 
was repeated. At first he called all regular shaped surfaces round, 
but soon learned to distinguish better. 

The difference between the observations of Drs. Ware and Cheselden 
may be reconciled, by the supposition that the patient of the latter had 
enjoyed a smaller share of vision than those of the former. Mr. C. says, 
expressly, that though his patient could distinguish strong colors, he 
had not the most remote idea of form. 


Was a native of Fifeshire, in Scotland, and lost his sight by the 
small pox so eerly in life, that he did not remember ever to have seen. 
He, however, made great proficiency in every branch of knowledge, 
and particularly in chemistry, natural history, and natural philosophy. 
He was very fond of mechanical employments, and expert in the use 
of edge tools. He afterwards became a lecturer on natural philosophy 
and chemistry, and performed his experiments with his own hands, 
with great dexterity. He also lectured with great ability on optics, 
and the phenomena of light and colors, though he had no correct 
visual perception of either. It was only when the rays were strongly 
refracted through a prism, that they had any effect upon his eyes. Red 
had a disagreeable effect on his eyes — he compared it to the touch of 
a saw. Green, on the coat, conveyed an agreeable sensation to him, 
which he considered as like the feeling of running his hand over 
smooth surfaces. Polished surfaces, winding streams, and gentle 
slopes were the figures by which he expressed his idea of beauty ; 
while rugged rocks, irregular points, and boisterous elements con- 
veyed his feeling of terror and disgust. 

Dr. Moyes long abstained from the use of animal food and fermented 
liquors. He was remarkable for the cheerfulness and equanimity of 
his temper, and greatly excelled in conversation. 

A certain blind sculptor in the Cours de Peint of De Piles took th« 
likeness of the Duke de Bracciano, in wax, in a dark cellar. He also 
made a noble marble statue of Charles the First, with great elegance 
and justness. 

Mr. Nicholas Bacon, a descendant of the celebrated Lord Veru- 
lam, lost his sight at nine years of age, but afterwards addicted himself 



inveterately to study. Yet he found great difficulty in procuring admis- 
sion into the learned seminaries of Brabant, where he lived. This 
prejudice he completely overcame, and was created Doctor of Laws in 
the city of Brussels, and became a pleading counsellor or advocate in 
the council of Brabant. He won almost every cause in which he was 

Stanley was stone blind, and yet an admirable organist and com- 
poser. His ear was so fine, that he could accompany any lesson with 
a thorough bass, though he had never heard it before ; thus anti- 
cipating the harmony before the chorus were sounded. It is said that 
he could distinguish colors by the touch, and it is certain that he could 
play at cards, by means of certain little punctures in them, which the 
closest inspection could scarcely detect. 



Is now an inmate of the American Asylum, at Hartford, in Connec- 

She is the daughter of John and Rachel Brace, natives of Hartford, 
and was born in that town, June 13, 1807. At four years of age, she 
was seized with the typhus fever while on a visit at Glastenbury, a few 
miles from Hartford. She was taken sick on Monday evening, Nov. 
29th, 1811, and on the Saturday morning following, she became blind 
and deaf. 

Before her illness, she had not only learned to speak, but to repeat 
her letters, and to spell words of three or four syllables ; and lor some 
time after the loss of her sight and hearing, she was fond of taking a 
book, and spelling words and the names of her acquaintances. She 
retained her speech pretty well, for about a year ; but gradually lost it, 
and seems now condemned to perpetual silence. For three years, 
she could still utter a few words. One of the last of these words was 

Julia was at first unconscious of her misfortune. She seemed to 
imagine, that a long night had come upon the world, and often said, 
"It will never be day." She would call upon the family to "light the 
lamp," and was impatient at their seeming neglect, even to give her 
an answer. At length, in passing a window, she felt the sun shining 
w r arm upon her hand ; she immediately held out her hand, and point- 
ed with delight, to indicate that the sun shone. From the January 
after her illness, until the following August, she would sleep during 



the day, and be awake through the night ; and it was not until autumn, 
by taking great pains to keep her awake during the day, that she was 
set right. She is now as regular in this respect as other persons. 
From the period of her recovery, she seemed to perceive the return of 
the Sabbath ; and on Sunday morning, would get her own clean 
clothes, and those of the other children. If her mother was reading, 
she would find a book, and endeavor to do so. The intervention of a 
day of fasting, or thanksgiving, will confuse her reckoning even now ; 
and some time elapses before she "gets right." 

Unable as she was to lift or penetrate the veil of darkness and silence 
which separated her from the world, the privations she endured, with- 
out any consciousness of the cause, might, very naturally, appear to her 
like a cruel punishment which those around were inflicting. It was 
probably from some feeling like this, that during the first winter after 
her recovery, she seemed irritable, almost to madness, would exhibit 
the most violent passion, and use the most profane language. The 
next summer she became calmer ; and her mother could govern her 
to some extent by shaking her, and stamping on the floor in sign of 
disapprobation ; and stroking, or patting her head, when she conducted 
well. She is now habitually mild, and obedient, and affectionate. 

During the first summer after her illness, she was very unwilling to 
wear clothes, and would pull them off violently. At length her mother 
took one of her frocks and tried it on her sister, with a view of altering 
it for her. Julia had always been remarkable for her sense of justice 
in regard to property. This seemed to be awakened ; and she took 
the frock, and put it on herself. After this she was willing to wear 
clothes, and even cried for new ones. She has ever since been fond 
of dress. At nine years of age she was taught to sew, and since that 
time has learned to knit. 

Julia is now twenty-eight years of age. She has been resident for 
several years in the American Asylum at Hartford, where she is sup- 
ported in part by the voluntary contributions of visitors, and in part by 
her own labors, in sewing and knitting. A language of palpable signs 
was early established, as a means of communication with her friends. 
This has been much improved by her intercourse with the deaf and 
dumb, and is now sufficient for all necessary purposes. 

Her countenance, as she sits at work, exhibits the strongest evidence 
of an active mind and a feeling heart within ; and thoughts and feelings 
seem to flit across it, like the clouds in a summer sky. A shade of 
pensiveness will be followed by a cloud of anxiety or gloom ; a peace- 
ful look will perhaps succeed ; and not unfrequently, a smile lights up 
her countenance, which seems to make one forget her misfortunes. 
But no one has yet penetrated the darkness of her prison house, or 
been able to find an avenue for intellectual or moral light. Her mind 
seems, thus far, inaccessible to all but her Maker. 



The life of Mr. Nelson was a striking exemplification of that reso- 
lution which conquers fortune. Total blindness, after a long gradual 
advance, came upon him about his twentieth year, when terminating 
his college course. It found him poor, and left him to all appearance 
both pennyless and wretched, with two sisters to maintain, without 
money, without friends, without a profession, and without sight. 

Under such an accumulation of griefs, most minds would have sunk, 
but with him it was otherwise. At all times proud and resolute, his 
spirit rose at once into what might be termed a fierceness of indepen- 
dence. He resolved within himself to be indebted for support to no 
hand but his own. His classical education, which from his feeble 
vision, had been necessarily imperfect, he now determined to complete, 
and immediately entered upon the apparently hopeless task, with a 
view to fit himself as a teacher of youth. 

He instructed his sisters in the pronunciation of Greek and Latin, 
and employed one or other constantly in the task of reading aloud 
to him the classics, usually taught in the schools. A naturally faithfnl 
memory, spurred on by such strong excitement, performed its oft- 
repeated miracles; and in a space of time incredibly short, he became 
master of their contents, even to the minutest points of critical reading. 

In illustration of this, the author remembers on one occasion, that 
a dispute having arisen between Mr. N. and the Classical Professor of 
the college, as to the construction of a passage in Virgil, from which 
his students were reciting, the Professor appealed to the circumstance 
of a comma in the sentence, as conclusive of the question. "True," 
said Mr. N., coloring with strong emotion ; " but permit me to observe," 
added he, turning his sightless eye balls towards the book he held in 
his hand, "that in my Heijne edition it is a colon, and not a comma." 

At this period, a gentleman who incidentally became acquainted 
with his history, in a feeling somewhere between pity and confidence, 
placed his two sons under his charge, with a view to enable him to 
try the experiment. A few months' trial was sufficient ; he then fear- 
lessly appeared before the public, and at once challenged a comparison 
with the best established classical schools of the city. 

The novelty and boldness of the attempt attracted general attention ; 
the lofty confidence he displayed in himself excited respect; and soon 
his untiring assiduity, his real knowledge, and a burning zeal, which, 
knowing no bounds in his own devotion to his scholars, awakened 
somewhat of a corresponding spirit in their minds, completed the con- 
quest. — Griffin. 


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